12.31.2009

A Year Well Spent

New Year’s Eve is a good time for reflection. If you are in want of some kind of structure to support your retrospective, I can recommend the Korean model BEST Sustainability Report, or my friend Julie’s “Zest for Life” questions. Also, I very much recommend naming the coming year, a practice I’ve learned from my friend Helena aka Maja.

I called 2009 “Stronger, slimmer and more agile”. Did I achive that? Well, yes I really think so. Both in terms of physique and mind. Although I definitely could do better. Anyway, I had some really fantastic moments during 2009, both on my own and with colleagues, friends and family such as
In order to get some inspiration for 2010, I did a wordle on my blog posts during 2009. This is the result:
Wordle: lmh2009

Well, I hereby declare 2010 as the year guided by the words “One time is also really good”, wherever that will lead me...

Happy New Year!

12.21.2009

The Sound of Snow

It’s fascinating how snow brings back memories from times long gone. Not only from childhood’s eternal winter holidays, but from ski vacations in Sälen and The Alps and from living in Stockholm where it’s often much colder than here on the West coast.

Fresh snow has a special sound. It was captured quite neatly in the children’s TV show “Trolltider”. Footsteps made by an invisible tomte. Early in the morning it’s even possible to hear snow falling, each snow flake making a faint noise when bumping into another or when coming to rest on the ground. The whole soundscape is kind of muffled. The ultimate fictional winter experience can as always be found in Mark Helprin’s wonderful story “Winter’s Tale”. Very far from the picture The Holiday, trying to con Americans that it actually snows in Surrey.

Today was winter solstice. From now on it gets lighter. And with the snow, it becomes even brighter. Please Santa, let the snow stay and the sun come! Please!

Merry Christmas! God Jul!

12.12.2009

Armeria Maritima

Thank you so much for all your votes in the Summer Photo Competition 2009, now closed! Of the 25 votes by mail and comments, seven were for the coastal picture from Orust, number 3.

When I studied biology in high school, our teacher took us on an excursion to the archipelago south of Göteborg. She said: “This flower is called Trift. Let it be the least of what you remember from this class.” Least and only, I’m afraid. The butterfly from Sanssouci, the flowers from Vinterviken and the sheep art from Pilarna were also close to winning.

The winner of this competition was drawn by Navid Modiri (the inventor of 365 Saker att göra/Things to Do) when I met him at Språkcaféet in Göteborg. It turned out to be Britt Lööf (an avid blogger herself) who will receive a bouquet from Fleurop-Interflora in collaboration with the Red Cross.

If you want to look at some really intriguing pictures, have a look at National Geographic and Airbus’ website See the Bigger Picture.

12.01.2009

East Meats West

Radisson Hotel in Shanghai is situated by People’s Square where the West and East Nanjing Road meet. From my room at the 28th floor I had a good view of the Renmin Park and of the neon-clad skyscrapers downtown. Despite the abundance of Chinese restaurants I opted for a safe bet, or so I thought, by entering a Pizza Hut. However, market adjustment is always important and obviously Asian customers are more frequent than European ones why it was hard to find some really nice vegetarian food.

Everywhere in the Shanghai region you find advertising for the EXPO 2010. In flower arrangements, in the special stores selling all kinds of goods wearing the EXPO logo and mascot, at the museums, with the street merchants, on posters and so on. Almost 200 countries will participate in this expo that perhaps will be the biggest event ever arranged on earth so far. The location of the expo area is excellent, rather close to the city centre and at the river.

I visited a presentation of the Finnish pavilion and they estimate that it will host 20.000 visitors each day during the six months of the EXPO. In total, 70 million visitors are expected at the EXPO. No wonder all countries are trying to figure out how to make most out of this meeting place, and how to create good business with the Chinese hosts.

Swedish companies have been present in China for quite some time. First the big international corporation started production here. Then came their suppliers wanting to be near their customers. Although service-oriented companies are becoming more frequent, about 80% of the business is still oriented towards sourcing. However, the structure of business is slowly changing, partly because of new demands in relation to Corporate Social Responsibility issues. The Sino-Swedish CSR Cooperation is therefore especially well positioned in time as is the new Sino-Swedish Sustainable Business Program in Shanghai.

I very much hope to go to the EXPO next year. The Swedish pavilion looks exciting and I believe the program will be very interesting too, especially the seminars in the neighbouring regions. Maybe by then I will have read “Where East Eats West: The Street-Smarts Guide to Business in China. Although I’d better practice using chopsticks...

11.22.2009

Opportunistic Driving

In Sweden, most people drive according to the traffic regulations. We stick to one lane and when overtaking we go on the left side. Honking is seldom used, and hard shoulders are frowned upon. A red light means stopping, and if you are in a left turning lane, you go left.

This of course means that if you try to apply the same approach in Shanghai, you will not last a day. Not an hour in fact. Here cars always stray between lanes in order to find the quickest one, why it is impossible to predict the movements of the cars in front of you. Why in turn of course it is only natural to warn them about your own ambitions by using the horn or the lights. If you spot slow vehicles in the lanes turning right, you of course can go around them using the left turning lane if it is empty. Since it is sometime difficult to cross the wide streets with many lanes, it is also makes sense to expect bikes, motor bikes and pedestrians in the streets in all directions at the same time. Red lights are more of a recommendation, but the whistle-blowing policemen should always be taken seriously.

Given these different approaches to traffic, it makes me wonder to what extent we can export intelligent transport systems. What is intelligent behaviour in these circumstances? Maybe something for Telematics Valley to consider, but also the initiative made by the Swedish Road Administration to commercialise more of its intellectual property in cooperation with Innovationsbron: The Transport Business Booster. But I’m sure that since they are cooperating with international partners such as Ericsson, they will already have accounted for this.

10.25.2009

Summer Photo Competition 2009

Today Sweden changed from summer time to normal (winter?) time. We gained an extra hour, which I spent on announcing this “competition”. Otherwise my two jobs, one at Innovationsbron and the other at VINNOVA keep me rather busy.

Although this summer has been a really rainy one, at least in Sweden, somehow I’ve managed to take lots of photos. Want to help me pick the one to symbolise the Summer of 2009? Write down which one is your favourite in a comment to this blog post together with your email address, and at the same time you will enter the lottery with a chance of winning a lovely bouquet of summer flowers. Open until 1st of December.

Look at the Picasa folder with the pictures, and then go back to this blog post and write a comment. It does not show immediately, but you can rest assured that I will take good care of it and put it into the lottery bowl!

Looking forward to your vote!
/Lena

10.12.2009

Dressing as Design

I’m probably going to Shanghai during fall and when I told my friends about this one of them quickly asked me to go to an outlet at Nanjing Road and buy 20 shirts for him. Now, I probably won’t have time to do this but I was intrigued about the request. The idea of having someone else buy my clothes is very remote to me as and I also came to realize that I don’t have more than one of any piece of clothing. Unless you count two shirts from The Banana Republic I bought in Boston that share the same design but are totally different with respect to colour and cloth.

This is probably a gender thing. As a woman, I don’t just dress in the morning – I compose an outfit. The clothes I wear are carefully selected in order to fit the weather, the schedule and my mood. To look the same two days in a row is not an option. I think this is good practice in order to stay creative.

My absolute favourite designer is Vivienne Westwood. I hope one day to wear one of her suits (I adore her evening dresses, but I have a hard time picturing myself in one of them). In the meantime I might use the suggestion from The Guardian on how to make you own Westwood dress!

Although some days I certainly wish I had some kind of uniform, when inspiration is nowhere to be found and both the weather and schedule have changed since I did my planning the previous evening...

10.02.2009

Prickly Wisdom

I am forever thankful to my friend Katja who recommended me reading Muriel Barbery’s warm and intelligent “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”. This book celebrates learning, but also demands that we do something good or beautiful with our new knowledge.

A great source of inspiration for good deeds is Harvard Business Review’s September issue. In it several important aspects of sustainable business development is covered, very much related to the HINT project I’m working with at Innovationsbron.


Constant innovation is the key to survival, why it is interesting to read about how LEGO and Cisco have approach this issue using the wisdom of the crowd through competitions and end-user communities. Engagement from employees is also important, where a green strategy can boost moral as well as innovation.

Women as an often neglected market because of lack of diversity in company workforces and boards is another topic (although I think this particular article was a little bit traditional in its pick of products). Six key female consumer segments are identified and, yes, I could see myself in this model.

C K Prahalad has written several interesting HBR articles all related to sustainability the last years. In this issue he argues that sustainability of the key driver for innovation and describes five stages for companies on their way towards sustainability. Another piece looks at renewable energy and Bill Clinton talks about how to create value even in the middle of an economical crisis.

Blue Ocean Strategy is described as a way for a company to actually have an impact on the context it operates in. This is a way for the entrepreneur who is not afraid of taking on the double task of changing the world and attracting customers. Like the CSR-driven entrepreneurs in focus in a Nordic research project.

What is also interesting with this issue is that only a few of the articles mentioned above can be found in the “Sustainability + Innovation” section. Apparently, HBR only considers environmental aspects as sustainable. Me, I’m still in favour of the People-Planet-Profit definition of sustainability.

One important aspect of sustainability is of course to be long-lasting. This is the topic of many of Jim Collin’s research project. One of my favourite books is “Good to Great” where, of course, the hedgehog concept is one key to survival.

“A hedgehog concept is not a goal to be the best, it is an understanding of
what you can be best at.”
Jim Collins

8.30.2009

Summer Memories 2009

As has become my tradition, I have made a list of the wonderful things I experienced during summer as a way of preserving and enhancing the memories.

The summer of 2009 started with a return to Orust for a kayaking trip. The weather was splendid and we probably did a 20 kilometer long excursion. Next day my arms were so sore I could not even lift a pencil! A sunny Sunday my friend Ingegerd and I went to the Botanical Garden in Göteborg, not only to look at the beautiful flowers but to listen to the soundscapers at the exhibition Botanic Sounds. I was very impressed by Chris Watson and bought his record Stepping into the Dark. My friend Åsa and I went to Stora Amundön to spend a day at the sea basking in the sun. As it turned out, this was one of the few really sunny days during the whole summer.

Next I went to another island: Öland. We combined the traditional Holmberg family gathering with my cousin Lotta’s birthday party. Such good food and such wonderful, soulful music. All under a big, full moon.

After short stop in Mölnlycke to change to some new gear, it was time to join my Friskport friends at the Riksläger in Sätila. Since the Göteborg district was responsible for organizing this camp, I spent lots of time in the information booth. However I also played volleyball, did aerobics, swam in the lake, rode an Icelandic horse and even contributed to the very long jetty where a board now should have my name on it. The sunjar was a great success.

We bought a new camera for a project at work, and I brought it along to Pilane outdoor art exhibition to practice. As I suspected, using a system camera is a bit trickier and I’m still not totally comfortable with it although some of the pictures turned out alright.

I got some help from my brother-in-law when I visited my sister’s family who was camping on Getterön outside Varberg. We went to the Ötzi exhibition at Varberg Castle and were impressed by the extensive knowledge of various kinds of wood he must have had.

After spending lots of days trying to get my new apartment in order, I went to my parents’ house in Upplid. We picked blueberries and raspberries, and I enhanced my non-fear of heights by painting the barn. Back at the West coast, I went to another birthday party this time at the Onsala peninsula. My friend Birgitta were quite happy about her present: a flag pole.

I took some time off from carrying boxes and went to Lidköping, looking at the Rörstand porcelain museum and continued to Läckö castle, again visiting the lovely garden. I also went to Gunnebo Castle lots of times for lazy lunches outside the café and to watch the outdoor comedy theatre “Lend Me a Tenor” by Ken Ludwig.

In August my Mother took me to Berlin. I had never been there before and was enchanted by the contrasts in architecture and by the entrepreneurial spirit soaring. We focused on the traditional tourist sites such as the castles Charlottenburg and Sanssouci. Without any trouble, I could spend many more days in this great city. I'll be back!

The last weekend of August, I went back to Orust this time with my runner friends. We had a mini training camp, running both in the evening and in the morning around the beautiful old fishing village Hälleviksstrand. It was a perfect closing and provided lots of energy.

Thank you, friends and family, for making also the summer of 2009 very much worth remembering!

7.12.2009

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The latest issue of the Swedish magazine Camino there is a guide indicating how eco-friendly the Swedish music festivals are. In the UK, things have been taken to a much higher level. As part of their Glastonbury Festival sponsoring, Orange has designed a new concept tent creating a truly mobile home for the wireless generation. Well, they had some help from the product development company Kaleidoscope.

The tent is made of photovoltaic fabric acting as a solar panel transforming the rays to energy. This is used for the central wireless control hub displaying energy generated and consumed as well as providing a wireless internet signal. If you are cold, the energy can be used to heat the floor. If you want your tent to be warm when you come back, just set the temperature level and the sensors will do the rest. Another feature is the “glo-cation” technology that helps you find your tent in the dark. Just send an SMS and your tent will provide a welcoming glow.

At the Frisksport Riksläger in Sätila last week, I was in charge of the mobile phone charging station/information booth. Although not as cool as the The Orange Chill ‘n’ Charge tent at the Glastonbury Festival, it was still fascinating to see the large number of people paying 1€ to charge their phone. Not to mention the number of gadgets left behind after the camp closed. Outdoor life is no longer what it used to be.

I introduced my latest favourite thing at the camp: The Sun Jar. It looks like a traditional Mason Jar with a glass lid and a rubber ring, but it contains low energy LED lamps, a rechargeable battery and solar cells. During the day you put it in the sun. Since the jar is water proof you don’t need to worry about letting it being outside all day. During night it will provide the most wonderful warm glow.

Apparently you can also get it in blue and pink. Perhaps something for Orange to consider, since it might be a bit difficult to find your tent if the concept turns into a really popular product. If they for some reason insist on keeping the orange colour, a pulsating light can be an alternative. Just like you can compose your phone signal, you may perhaps in the future be able to create your tent ditto and maybe the Morse code gets a revival.

Of course I know that this kind of stuff is not really eco-friendly at all. Despite the solar panel, this is just another piece of nice-to-have technology. Applying a life cycle assessment would probably reveal several drawbacks with my new favourite toy: the materials used, the transport, the production methods and so on. However, in comparison to tea lights the Sun Jar is safer to use in tents!

5.23.2009

Wandering Tale

My friend Charlotta, she did it. She went from talking about it to actually do it. She belongs to the same informal group of former colleagues as I do and we have long talked about combining our professional life with some kind of charity. We talked, but she took action!

Last weekend Sjöklint Agenturer and A Gallery invited to vernissage and premier of TOMS Shoes. The founder of TOM Shoes, Blake Mycoskie was there together with a really exciting mix of artists such as Patrik Andiné, Peter Apelgren, Gorm Boberg, Jan Jörnmark, och Viktoria Hallenius.

The idea behind TOMS Shoes is really simple. You buy one pair of shoes and another pair is shipped to a child in need. The shoes are incredible comfortable and very stylish, and you can even personalize them in interesting ways (read about the arduous task Blake’s Mom is accomplishing right now to help her son, it’s quite funny).

Everybody who buys the shoes also spread the word by telling the story behind the company. This way the viral marketing does its trick and the values are displayed in a narrative format. Great! More than 140 000 pairs of shoes have been given to children in Argentina, South Africa and Ethiopia. Even greater!

However, I’m not really surprised. Sjöklint Agenturer was very quick at using Facebook for communicating with us customers, which of course they have continued with their new shop Sally Jones (I wonder if the name of the shop was inspired by Jakob Wegelius book with the title Sally Jones?

Sjöklint Agenturer is represented in the Nordic countries. So is the research project CSR-Driven Innovation. The project aims at supporting the business potential among Nordic small and medium-sized enterprises by combining the fields of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), design, innovation and growth. They should really look into this case!

If you are looking for more art, take a peek at The Saatchi Galley!

5.15.2009

Weather Fair

I have come down with the flue. No, not the swine flue, just the ordinary one. One benefit of being ill is that you watch TV programmes in the middle of the day, picking up gems normally lost in everyday doings. Like this splendid documentary on Ian Fairweather I just watched.

Apparently Fairweather led a very special life. Born in 1891 in Scotland and died on Bribie Island outside Brisbane in 1974. He served in both world wars and were twice kept prisoner of war for a long time. He travelled extensively in Europe and Asia, studying both Japanese and Chinese.

No wonder he developed a layered approach, combining several experiences and memories into one painting. Like the Monestary, described in this way by the National Gallery of Australia:

“On the one hand, Monastery may be considered a recollection of an experience many years before when the artist stayed briefly at a monastery near Beijing. He described it to his early biographer Nourma Abbott-Smith as a place of spirituality. He recalled that the snow outside covered the monastery while the inside was illuminated by hundreds of candlewicks floating in golden bowls, casting flickering shadows and softening the carved aspect of the statues. In a broader sense, as Murray Bail noted in his later book on the artist, Monastery also represents all monasteries, all contemplative silences and so summarises this serious artist’s obsessions.”

I think we need more people like Fairweather, who can assimilate various cultures and create something new, who are curious and passionate, and who can capture both the specific and the general.

We could use a bit of more fair weather also. In Sweden, SMHI a government agency under the Ministry of the Environment provides weather forecasts. In addition to general forecasts and weather warnings, it also provides industry-specific services, simulations and analyses, statistics, climate studies and contracted research.

Recently they launched a service providing property managers with forecasts making it possible to adjust the temperature and thereby lowering the energy cost. It will be interesting to see what kinds of products and business models SMHI and other government agencies can provide to support sustainable development.

This reminds me of informative arts experiments of letting interactive art show complex real-time data. Maybe SMHI could be inspired by Fairweather’s work and provide a weather art service?

5.09.2009

Long-Tail Muesli

Since 1964 Saltå Kvarn, a anthroposophy-owned mill in Sweden have grinded all kinds of grain. Recently they started a new kind of web-shop. At www.minmusli.nu you can buy your custom-made ecological muesli. First you choose a base by selecting from spelt, barley, quinoa or seeds. Then you add some extra oat, rye, raisins, raspberries, mango, goji berries, hazel nuts etcetera. You can even add chocolate and gummi bears! And then you just write your address and your personalised muesli will arrive at your doorstep. The price depends on the mix.

What better example of the long tail concept!?! Apparently the web designers also used the Internet to listen to customer comments on the usability, given this long blog conversation.

Not living in Sweden? Well have a peek at MyMuesli if you live in the UK, Germany or Austria and are looking for some ecological cereals.

4.14.2009

Instruction on Demand

Have you ever tried to put together a greenhouse? Within a greenhouse? Now, I don’t mean those small ones in plastic but a big one in aluminium. Didn’t think so. But I have! Tried, that is.

My parents bought a greenhouse construction from Skånska Byggvaror. It’s a beautiful and ingenious little house in aluminium and it will provide much joy in the future, I’m sure. However, the manual must have been put together by a sadist. Or at least an engineer without any knowledge of usability testing. If only someone had taken the time to test the instructions by letting ordinary people put together all the millions of mostly unmarked pieces with the minute tools. I was sad to see that nothing much had happen since 1996 when I published my PhD thesis, including a study on user manuals.

My Mother had another angle. She suggested, a true entrepreneur, that we should advertise on the Internet now that we knew how to put together this specific model, recognising the market for greenhouse construction support. I suddenly had an epiphany and saw a range of IT-based instructional services on the same theme. Taka a photo of the section you are having trouble with, call us and we send you a short instructional video to help you. If you need personal support, make a video call and show us what is puzzling you and we will talk you through it.

You could also access our self-support site where proud greenhouse owners have made their own videos showing how they put together their houses. We could use tools like Bambuser or Mogulus to create mobile TV-channels with edutainment where we let celebrities compete on how to go from opening of the boxes to putting the last glass into its frame using as little time as possible, a bit similar to Gordon Ramsey’s cook along live show. More tricky situations will be introduced after a couple of seasons (like building a greenhouse within a greenhouse) and unlikely teams in order to create more drama. I’m sure it will result in quite a large number of hours to watch with funny (and dangerous) situations, including arguments bordering on domestic violence (no, we did not get that far, only to some verbal abuse).

This kind of service is a kind of antithesis of making the construction parts intelligent, telling you how to put them together, something researchers have been into for some years creating proactive furniture through augmented reality.

The lyrics of the Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris” includes the line “When everything’s made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am”. Maybe it should be changed into to “When everything’s made to give rise to additional and expensive services, we just want to know who you are”. This reminds me that I should finish my blog post on e-identity I have been working on for some time.

4.05.2009

Scope of Control

On Sundays I attend an aerobics class at my local Friskis&Svettis, an excellent non-for-profit health club. It’s a dance class where we move to a very varied string of tunes: hip-hop, tango, Eurovision Song Contest melodies, house, Robbie Williams, Michael Jackson, Sonja Aldén, Bollywood songs, Latin American rhythms, Swedish pop...

I’m as agile as a safe, as we say in Sweden, but I like it a lot. And I’m not alone in this, which means there is a whole room full of rather stiffly moving people with happy grins on their faces trying to move gracefully to the music. Partly because of our non-agile condition and partly because of our instructors’ choreography this looks rather comical and the children looking at us often have a huge laugh.

Surely neither the composer nor the artist had this application in mind for their music. They might even become upset could they see us. But how much influence can you have on your work once it is released to the public?

Samuel Beckett gave very precise instructions on how his play “Waiting for Godot” should be played. He even took legal action against a group of women for playing the characters, since Beckett was very strict on that only men should be in the play.

I saw the play a month ago, at the premier at Göteborg Stadsteater. My uncle Henric is the director so of course I’m a bit biased when I say I thought it was really great. However, not only the audience thought so too but also a string of critics from newspaper such as Svenska Dagbladet and Dagens Nyheter, and also the national radio Sveriges Radio. The local newspaper Göteborgs-Posten was a little cooler in the response, claiming a lack of reference to modern day society. I find that a bit strange since I think the play is very much about general aspects of what it is like to be a human being in terms of our need for relations and recognition, but also since Beckett does not leave much room for such references.

Another key message is that in the unknown there is hope. Thank you Henric for making me see that!

4.01.2009

Economical Drama

While waiting in the harbour for the speedboat to Koh Kood, an economical drama developed before our eyes. A silent war took place between the young Nestlé ice cream salesman and his more senior opponent from Unilever. In contrast to the conflict in Thailand between the yellow and the red, this was a battle between the blue and the red.

In spite of a bad cold, the blue were getting more of the market, maybe because he was under a tree in the shadow. The red was positioned closer to the café where a lot of the potential customers were hovering, waiting for the boat to arrive. However, his bright red motorbike was in the merciless sun. Since I like to encourage competition, I bought a Magnum from the red when he showed signs of giving up. He let me have the ice cream, and then moved across the road into the shadow. The blue then gave me the evil eye and immediately moved into the vacant space. A nice kind of illustration of first-mover advantage versus the benefits of being the fast second.

In these times of economical crisis, we need to learn more quickly and also come up with more novel ideas. According to researcher Barbara Fredrickson, discrete positive emotions broaden the scopes of attention and cognition and lead to a widened array of thoughts and action impulses in the mind. So how about designing positive learning environments? In folk high schools pedagogical drama is often successfully used and it is even possible to study the topic at Malmö University. Another creative combination of art and science is the concept of dialogue seminars, applied in many contexts including the Swedish National Defence College.

But my favorite educational concept is that of simulations. My friend Kristofer Erlandsson has developed several simulations for example one where you practice innovation system development and another where you get a better understanding of the works of the EU. Right now he is running several workshops in Europe called Road Map simulation, helping companies to develop business strategies.

Wouldn´t it be nice if we could develop a new art/science called Economical Drama? There we could act out wicked problems related to financial and climate challenges, based on scientific knowledge. A group of decision-makers could be assigned different roles in order to learn to understand other perspectives. Let the capitalist play the role of the WWF president, let the industrialist become the new Fair Trade Executive, let the scientist try on the Current TV journalist’s shoes, and make WTO and World Bank executives do a swap.

Another application would be to simulate a funding committee in an incubator with a mission of sustainable funding. It could be inspired by UNEP’s Financial Initiative (thank you Milton Lore for this gem) or the Swedfund’s good results.

I’m going to the National Business Incubation Association conference in Kansas City in a few weeks. Maybe I should launch the idea then and there…

3.23.2009

3.08.2009

Global Warming and the Female Climate

Sweden works proactively with issues related to equality in many ways. How sad it is that this has had little effect on the distribution of men and women in company boards and in leading positions. Among the listed companies in Sweden, only about 18% of the board members are women. Very few of them are chairmen. Maud Olofsson our Minister for Enterprise and Energy, is rather pleased that at least the number of women in the boards of the companies owned by the government has increased (33%). Almost 100% of all the CEO’s in the listed companies in Sweden are men. If you want to know exactly who is on what board, have a look at the yearly report “Styrelser och revisorer”.
Since research has demonstrated that companies with a mixed board do better in financial terms, it is good to know that there are several organisations supporting the equality movement related to leadership. One is the journal Passion for Business, where their first issue 2009 contains a list of 549 women (I’m among them) who are both suitable and willing to become board members. Another is Styrelsekvinnor, where companies can find a whole database with names. A third is Women's Business Research Institute.

It has also been recognised that organisations supporting the development of innovation systems need to address this issue, why regions such as Skåne and Västra Götaland have made special efforts. Also the Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems has contributed to the debate with a study on the effect of equality programs the last 25 years. The Nordic Council has also focused on this topic a long time.

Information technology can also be of good help. StyrelseAkademien in Stockholm has developed a virtual board room, where boards can gather information relevant to their work. Apparently women are very much in favour of this kind of solution and keen to get started. The men are more reluctant, and are not too fond of the tracking mechanism showing who has read what documents and who are active in debates.

Maybe we need more such tools. Especially when looking into combining gender issues with environmental aspects, as Gender and Climate Change and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Maybe there is a need for developing our taxonomies such as the one used by Catalyst to list gender-related research. The Nordic conference on equality, gender and climate changes on February 2 2009, could be a good place to start looking.

3.01.2009

Birds of a Feather

During my short stay in Nairobi, I had the good fortune of seeing quite a number of beautiful birds. The garden surrounding the Fairview Hotel is large and green, with lots of feeding stations for various species. My experience was also greatly enhanced by reading the lovely book “A Guide to the Birds of East Africa” by Nicholas Drayson.

This book had caught the eye of Charlie, a keen bird watcher and blogger, who wrote a review recommending it although at the same time criticising it for being inaccurate in some places. Although Drayson has studied zoology and has a PhD in 19th century Australian natural history writing, he is apparently more of a platypus expert. However, he did a very good job defending his rights as a fiction writer when interviewed by Charlie, who was very impressed by his kindness.

Although I love my little camera, it is not especially well suited for taking pictures of birds (as you can see from the photos). However, there are plenty of much better photographers who have made an excellent job of catching the little creatures on film and there is lots of information on how to go on bird watching tours in Kenya. If you want to know what to look for, Wikipedia has an excellent list of all the indigenous species.

I was lucky to get some wooden birds from the Birds Paradise Souvenir Shop though. Don’t miss it!

2.21.2009

Innovation System-Driving Film-Making

After visiting the Karen Blixen museum and the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden, it became clear to me that the impact from the famous writer persists long after her death. The lush Nairobi suburb Karen is situated between the city centre and the mountains, and the views are stunning. No doubt, the film “Out of Africa” boosted the Karen economy, featuring one of my favourite actors Robert Redford.

When back at the Fairview Hotel at Upper Hill and swimming in the pool, I started to think about how making films can drive innovation. No doubt science fiction and Bond movies have expanded our technical ideas, and to some extent our management designs as well. However, I think that not only companies can benefit from collaborating with the film and fiction industry, but also regions. Whole innovations systems consisting of scientists, entrepreneurs and civil servants could team up with famous film makers in order to create the vivid images of the preferred future as encouraged by Peter Senge and Robert Fritz (the latter often using film as a metaphor for how to frame your message in an appropriate scope).

So how about Nairobi, a life science hub, hooking up with the Swedish Film Institute to make a movie about fictional Danish and Swedish descendants of Karen and Bror Blixen coming to Kenya to start a sustainable functional food business? Collaborating with local suppliers, researchers and incubators in all countries they could make good use of solar and wind power in order to breathe new life into the old Swedo African Coffee Company. Perhaps with a young American director, supported by Redford’s Sundance Institute.

Creating an image so real and attractive, it may have the chance of paving the way for investors and real entrepreneurs. Perhaps the company could even be in place before opening day, since it would be really cool if the film merchandise would include products from the new company. How about that for product placement?
"He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast",

from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

2.14.2009

Heart of the Matter

When I was studying English at the university in 1984, one of the books we were required to read was “Heart of the Matter” by Graham Green. I’m not sure what it did to my perception of Africa, civil servants or marriage, but I believe that that course changed my life.
“No human being can really understand another,
and no one can arrange another's happiness.”

Graham Green, The Heart of the Matter
Although I already liked English, which of course was one of the reasons for enrolling in the course, I think this was the time when I really fell in love with the language. This is a love that has lasted longer than any other.
Which is why I now own books like “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” and enjoy comments regarding how expressions change through usage and how they become metaphors.
Hamlet:
"Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart
As I do thee."
Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 71-74


Happy Valentine’s Day!

2.12.2009

Cruel to be Kind

“Sometimes you need to be kind to yourself”, said Stefan Einhorn at a seminar last week in reply to a questions concerning what to do when somebody asks you to do something you do not want to or have time for. “If you cannot deliver, you should say no because in the long run it is kinder.”

He should know because he has written an excellent book called “The Art of Being Kind”. Being a Professor of Molecular Oncology he has had plenty of opportunity to observe what it takes to be kind, both at work and at home. You actually often have to be both brave and smart to be kind. There is also much research that demonstrates that humans benefit from kindness and most of us want to be good.

There is a world-wide ongoing debate concerning if it is better to support entrepreneurs in struggling economies through companies like MyC4 where lenders get interest or through charities like Kiva. Most people seem to take the position that there is room for a variety of players and I totally agree with this. However, I also believe that we need to become better at offering true business deals.

When you do want to help charities, there are plenty of opportunities to do that in combination with business. The site God Handling (A Good Deed) offers an opportunity to purchase from web shops and at the same time make the companies pay charities. As a consumer you don’t pay any extra, but the company pays to get some more publicity.

If you are in doubt concerning what charity to choose, you might want to use Charity Rating. Here the charities have been categories in terms of what focus they have, what countries they cover, how transparent the information is and so on. So far only Swedish charities have been rated, but there are similar organisations like Charity Navigator in the US and Guide Star in the UK.

Should you want to experience a really weird mix of kindness and cruelty, I recommend taking a look at The Cruel Game, and become a benevolent assassin.

“Will innocents be caught in the cross-fire?
Oh, yes.
But when your secret weapon is a random act
of kindness, it’s only cruel to be kind
to other players...”

Maybe Hamlet got it right in the end…

1.24.2009

Places of Importance

What makes a place important to you? Is it because of the past? The time you spent there, the important work you did or persons that you met who forever made an impression on you? Or is it because of the present? Where you live and experience here and now, anchored in everyday life and enjoying unexpected, small pleasures.

Can it be because of the future? Places you desperately want to go to. Big and important in your mind because of what goes on there. Perhaps merely because of the associations they bring to you and to others. Places with power. Where you can create interesting stories.

In the new issue of The Holmberg Gazette I have gathered some places of importance to me. Places I hope to visit during 2009. Most of them are places I’ve already been to, but don’t expect to stay the same. It was a difficult choice, because I have visited so many exciting places, met so many interesting people.

A totally different kind of place is the Internet. For me, that is one of the most important places. Right now and probably even more so in the future. That is why I try to explore it in many ways. Why you can find me at LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, ResearchGATE...

1.11.2009

Indigenous Knowledge

Last week I made a great decision. My friend Agneta and I went to see the film Australia. And what a wonderful movie it was! A real adventure story of the old and good kind, with damsels in distress, a hero who can both shoot and cry, wild children and animals, beautiful scenery, unexpected friendship and love, faint popular music, and enemies defeated at the end.

This is a very much Australian production: supported by the government through Screen Australia, with an Australian director (Baz Luhrmann) and all leading actors native (including Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman). Although Kidman’s shoes are made by the Italian company Ferragamo and her clothes were made especially for her, you can get the same gorgeous look and feel by popping into RM Williams, the famous Australian brand that delivered the rest of the gear for the crew.

And there are several more very good reasons to see the film. One of the messages in the film is the importance of making change happen when necessary. “Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be.” Another reason is the strong emphasis on storytelling and the indigenous Australians use of storytelling as a means to create memories and individuals. “The only thing you own is your story”. Well, better make it a good one. But why somebody would need a reason to see a film about Australia featuring Hugh Jackman is beyond me…



Another form of indigenous knowledge is used in user-driven development. According to research at the MIT by Eric von Hippel but also at Karlstad University by Per Kristensson, users are very apt in supporting product development and are likely to come up with more original, more valuable and to some extent more realizable ideas. These two collaborate, although Hippel is more of the “eating his own dog food” kind of a guy since very much of the material he has produced in terms of articles, books and videos are downloadable from his site.

Apparently Baz Luhrmann made use of user-driven development, because he changed the film after a preview. Or rumor has it 20th Century Fox made him. I must say I prefer the user-driven one, but then again I am a true romantic.

1.01.2009

Meaningful Search

I subscribe to the AI mailinglist, and yesterday something caught my eye namely the referral to a website with only good news. This is actually a collection of sites, and the compilation is done, not by computers, but by three people in the small company Nononina.

Although I really appreciate the talents that must be involved in keeping such collections alive, I’m also very intrigued by the technology behind semantic search. With by background in computational linguistics, I can’t help but wonder about how we can move from the kind of very rudimentary search most of use, typing a word or two into the search field at Google and then browsing through the first of the 235.366 documents, towards something more meaningful.

According to the researchers who recently gathered at the ESWC08 conference, there are several challenges that semantic search systems try to address such as how semantic technologies can be used to capture the information need of the user or how what the users wants to know more about can be translated into language the computer understands without forcing him or her to use weird symbols? With so many documents produced, it is no wonder that the EU Commission has spent some money on semantic search projects, Alvis being one of them. And it comes as no surprise that the Finns are really good at semantic computing, since almost nobody (or at least less than 6 million people) can understand their language. This means that it probably will not be included in the semantic search engine Hakia, since they “plan to cover all languages spoken by significant number of people”.

Another big challenge is the increasing move from text to pictures, audio and movies. The Horizon Report from The New Media Consortium talks about trends in use of technology in education and one of their observations is that “grass root video” is really catching on. Of course, already some applications try to address this such as the Media Mill. It would be really interesting if it could be applied to user generated material such as the stuff presented by Al Gore’s Current TV. Again, this is something the EU addresses. Audio and visual search is the topic of the CHORUS coordination action and there is even some hope for disruptive innovation, something that is always delightful from an investment perspective.

Now, if you are really into semantic search what do you do? A semantic search engine searching for semantic web documents, of course. It is called Swoogle. If you are a researcher and want to try semantic search features in order to find colleagues (or potential competitors), you can try the ResearchGate. See the video below on how to use it.



However, even with the help of semantic search engines, how are we going to find things that are relevant for us? How on earth can we navigate in the ecology of attention, described so accurately by Davenport and Beck in “The attention economy” and in “The Economics of Attention” by Lanham?

Dewitt Jones, a photographer often working for National Geographic, emphasizes that we should look for what is right with the world. This philosophy has made him a great photographer, but has also provided him with personal direction. Something he has captured in a beautiful and pedagogical way in his video. If you want to know what Appreciative Inquiry is all about in plain language, this is an excellent way to get all the basic concepts together with some really beautiful pictures.

Of course, the EU Commission is on top of this issue and provides research success stories where some of them have even reached stardom. But what can we do in our daily lives? Could search research find ways for us to become more aware of what is good, beautiful and right? To make us search for and find things that build on our strengths? Instead of “I feel lucky” maybe Google could have a button called “Make me happy”.

One way of increasing the relevance in results from search engines is to make use of the features provided by WordsCloseTogether. They make sure that you get only results where the words you are looking for are written less than 100 words apart. Sprung from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, it is no wonder that the company mission is to serve people. I do like their comment on Google’s mission statement:
With all due respect to Google Inc., "Don't be evil" is a negative theme. Google's nineteen thousand plus employees would be better directed by servant marketing themes that are fully respectful of key human values.


Now, isn’t that something meaningful to search for?